A Timeline: The Day Sports Disappeared
As human beings, we tend to remember significant historical events by asking the question, "Where were you when <insert event> happened?". As sports fans, we tend to have several of these moments encoded in to our souls, as both the euphoria of victory and the sorrows of defeat, leave not only an ever-lasting memory in our minds, but an indescribable feeling in our hearts. Speaking from personal experience, this is how I remember the day sports disappeared.
The onset of 2020 already had an ominous beginning. There seemed little good news on a global stage. As a sports fan, I had often have found an escape watching the evening and late night games. It was a soap opera of athletics. A symphony of emotions. Flush with drama, yet utterly unscripted. A place where for a a few brief hours, we welcomed replacing the stresses of reality with the stresses of a scoreboard.
As we moved in to the early weeks of 2020, rumblings of a new flu-like virus started making headlines. Not naive to what impact a virus could have, I remember discussing as early as January on what impact this may have on sports if it continued to spread across the world. We all discussed various scenarios, mostly in jest. Little did we know, how severe it would soon be.
As we grew to know more about the virus, it was given the name we all know it as now: COVID-19. The virus had ravaged the Wuhan region of China, and was already extremely prevalent in parts of Europe (Italy and Spain) and the Middle East (Iran). It was only a matter of weeks, maybe days before this reached every corner of the globe. After all, we live in a completely interconnected and globalized world.
As February rolled in we saw Serie A in Italy begin to cancel games. The Italian government then declared games to be held without fans in attendance. It was something many saw coming as an inevitable next step, but seeing it actually happen put the grim reality that we faced in to perspective. As John Hammond from Jurassic Park famously came to realize and appreciate, "People. Are. Dying."
As early March arrived and COVID-19 began to become more prevalent in North America, the effects started to trickle in to the North American sports leagues. The NBA formally announced that players were no longer to shake hands or high-five with fans, nor sign autographs to help mitigate the risk. A few days later they then issued a memo to all teams that the league should begin to prepare for games without fan attendance. Not even a week later, the dominoes began to fall. One by one, the world of sports tumbled.
Just after noon Eastern Standard Time, the WHO (World Health Organization) declares COVID-19 a pandemic. Select NHL and NBA teams (Columbus Blue Jackets, San Jose Sharks, and Golden State Warriors) had soon after declared that games were to be held without fans. As the evening continued, there were whispers in the NBA of something peculiar happening. I was actually in my living room, tuned in to the Utah Jazz vs Oklahoma City Thunder game in the NBA when this was all happening. Out of all the games to pick, it had to be this one.
8:40pm EST: The game was officially delayed. The fans were being asked to leave the arena. What was happening? Immediately the thought went to COVID-19. But how? Rumors began flooding that there may be a player who was sick. Twitter began speculating. One name that was thrown around with little to no evidence at the time was Rudy Gobert. He had yesterday been joking with the media about the virus and how he should not be touching anything. Right as he finished his interview yesterday, as to prove his point, he went and rubbed his hands a all over all the microphones, table, and any other equipment near him. Surely it could be him... not after that spectacle...
Meanwhile video surfaced of Mark Cuban sitting courtside, having a rather animated reaction to something he had just been updated of on his phone. Theories began to run wild. Minutes later we would all find out what it was...
9:27pm EST: It was announced that Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz has tested positive for COVID-19. A shockwave went through the minds of everyone. What did mean for the upcoming games. What would happen to the rest of the players. Once again, minutes later we would find out...
9:31pm EST: The NBA announced that it has suspended the remainder of the season indefinitely. Another shockwave. Most sports fans had never experienced anything like this before. Shortened seasons happen, but thats typically from labour disputes. If the season was over. What does that mean? There of course are much more critical real world problems and implications, but speaking strictly from a sports perspective it felt like the world had come crashing down.
Throughout the day, many of the remaining sports leagues all confirm with announcements that the remainder of their seasons have been postponed, or that the beginning of their seasons have been delayed. These include the NHL, MLB, MLS, and NCAA.
Some leagues are now in talks of resuming, while others have shut down completely. Time will only tell what is to come and how leagues and players will handle a return of sports.
Looking back at everything, I both can and cannot believe, that it actually happened. Sports had vanished off the face of the earth.
As I have mentioned before, with COVID-19 there are countless more important things than sports that are being affected across the world. Illness. Death. Mental health deterioration. Famine. Poverty. Unemployment. Violence. Rent strikes. Mortgage scares. The list is endless. It has been catastrophic in every sense of the word. What the world is experiencing now is only the beginning of the very real socio-economic impacts.
It is not lost on me that sports and athletics have objectively no importance when it comes to these other issues. But as someone who has sports as such an important facet in my life, I thought I'd share my experience about the day sports disappeared.